Oct 3, 2016
Last Semester, one of our in-class readings was 'Select Excerpts from the notice of Proposed Requirements – Race to the Top Provisions Related to Principals and School Leaders' compiled by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. It was simultaneously enlightening and frightening, and became heavily annotated in anticipation of becoming fodder for several Two-Fisted History articles this Season.
The first in this series of RTTP articles comes from the opening background:
According to the notice, states must make significant progress in the following four education reform areas in order to receive a grant: 1) implementing standards and assessments; 2) improving teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution; 3) improving collection and use of data; and 4) supporting struggling schools.
Firstly, I'd love to know how the #TTOG folks embedded in schools and districts with heavy a focus on numbers and data collection handle this. As I've often pontificated about, implementing standards and common assessments for ~50 million children is inherently foolhardy at best. 50 million students aren't all alike. Multicultural students, SPED/ESE students, ESOL students, low-income students, etc. are all expected to perform to the same proficiency as a so-called 'average student' (really, /are/ there 'average students?') within the same time period.
When a student falters, the schools and teachers place them in remedial instruction – often to the exclusion of other classes. In the most egregious cases, I've seen students who take their regular classes, then take remedial 'preparatory' classes to catch up. This may result in a student taking two Math classes, two Science classes, two Social Studies classes, and two English classes. . . and they still can't make the artificially-created 'proficiency.' Granted, some of these students may be just so overloaded with course work that they give up.
. . . I'm still formulating ideas about 'redistribution of teachers,' 'achieving equity in teacher distribution' and the differing nature of what Federal, State, & Local education agencies consider 'Highly Qualified Teachers.' I might save that for later. Currently, the last two points concern me a bit more.
I think people who have been reading Two-Fisted History for a while know my feelings about data-collection and how it's handled by those individuals who see the students as 'products' or 'output.' At the end of the day (or the school year), the idea of measuring 50 million children by what some schmo at Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, or Pearson (a schmo who might not even have a background in either education or the content area, mind you) considers 'essential for assessing proficiency' is laughable. I understand the idea of making sure our students are learning, but this is clearly not the way to do it. If you want to make sure our students are learning, train teachers from step one to know their students and identify them as people. Not numbers. Not widgets. Give them the tools and know-how to teach, then let them do their thing. Teachers aren't factory workers. We're caretakers of our posterity.
. . . As an aside, I had an interesting experience with a Pollster last week that will illustrate what we're turning out in our schools:
Pollster: On the issue of President of the United States, who will you vote for? One for Hillary Clinton, Two for Donald Trump, or Three for Undecided.
Two-Fisted History: None of the above.
Pollster: Um, you have to pick One, Two, or Three.
Two-Fisted History: No I don't. I'm not Undecided, and I know I'm not going to vote for Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton. I can't accept that voting for either of those candidates is using my best judgment as a Citizen Scholar.
Pollster: Ok. I'm marking you down as 'Undecided.'
Two-Fisted History: No ma'am. I'm quite decided.
Pollster: There are only three bubbles on this sheet. Republican, Democrat, or Undecided. Please pick one.
Back on the topic of the Big Four Testing/Publishing companies, I wonder how many of their employees that decide how 'proficient' a students have to be, are required to fulfill the onerous requirements that teachers are required to in order to maintain their teaching certifications. I think I'll file that away for later, but I feel it's something that needs discussion.
Finally, supporting struggling schools sounds nice on paper and in legislative chambers, but what does it entail? I know sounds like a cop out, but it really is something that I want to take more time to delve into. For now, I feel this is enough for us all to think about and provide feedback on.
Resources for Social Studies Students & Teachers